Hundreds of LGBTQ events are occurring nationwide this month to celebrate and support the LGBTQ community. In recognition of Pride Month, we are sharing input about Wisconsin estate planning for LGBTQ+ individuals and couples.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender individuals, whether married, unmarried, in a civil union, or single, need to do estate planning to protect themselves in a legal system that may not assure their intended wishes are followed.
The U.S. Supreme Court has held that same-sex marriages legal in one state are to be recognized as legal in all 50 states. This means that many legal protections in the estate planning area are now available for same-sex couples. For example, the automatic right to inherit certain property from your spouse, the right to make medical or financial decisions for each other, and related legal considerations should now apply to LGBTQ+ couples under Wisconsin law.
Whether you are married or not, it is best to create your own estate plan to assure your personal wishes are followed. This is equally true for heterosexual couples.
Many LGBTQ couples are not married and do not have the legal protections marriage provides. For them, estate planning is critical to provide for their partners. Unmarried LGBTQ individuals, whether in a relationship or not, need estate planning documents in place to have their choices for financial or medical decisions while alive or their wishes for financial allocations on their death followed.
Recommended Estate Planning Considerations For LGBTQ+ Individuals Or Couples
3 Reasons Why Same-Sex Couples Need an Estate Plan by Attorney Lindsey A. Kujawa
1. A Will
A will spells out how you want your estate to pass on your death, though court oversight may be required. If you are unmarried and want your estate to pass to your partner, this is essential. State inheritance laws may not allow this to happen. You can name whomever you want to serve as the personal representative of your estate to implement your estate plan when you die.
You can set up trusts for minor beneficiaries or beneficiaries who need special conditions set on the receipt of their inheritance and name who will be the trustee to administer those assets for the benefit of the beneficiaries. You also should specify whom you would want to serve as guardian of your minor children if both you and your partner pass away.
2. A Durable Power of Attorney for Finances
A Durable Power of Attorney is the legal document that gives someone you choose the power to act in your place if you are not able to act to manage your own business or financial affairs. You want to make sure this remains effective if you become incapacitated or incompetent.
3. A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and Other End of Life Decision Making Documents
The Power of Attorney for Health Care spells out who can make medical decisions on your behalf if you are not able to do so yourself.
A Directive to Physicians (or Living Will) expresses your wishes for whether you want to be kept alive by artificial means if you are unconscious and in terminal condition and have no reasonable chance of recovery. A HIPAA release allows the person you designate to have access to your protected health information so the person making these medical decisions can have full medical information.
4. Review of All Possible Beneficiary Designations
You can have many assets pass directly to your partner or other intended beneficiary by their designation as beneficiary or by payable on death or transfer on death provisions. This is especially important on IRAs, 401(k) accounts, life insurance policies, and bank or investment accounts, which often comprise a large part of a person's estate. Be sure to add and update these designations to assist with out-of-court estate administration after your death.
5. Revocable Trust
A Revocable Trust is a document used to allow all of your assets to pass outside of a court upon your death. You would take ownership of items in the name of the Trust or list the Trust as a beneficiary on your assets (through the use of a Beneficiary or Transfer on Death designation). Once all of your assets are in your Trust, your trustee would disperse your assets with the directions laid out in the Trust, without the need for a court to approve of the directions.
Contact an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney Today
The estate planning attorneys at Hansen & Hildebrand, S.C. are happy to help you understand your options and take the necessary steps to make enforceable estate planning decisions. Whether you are married, in a same-sex relationship, or are an LGBTQ+ individual, contact us today to ensure your choices are honored.
By Attorneys Lindsey A. Kujawa and Erin M. Idler
Planning for death or disability too often a topic people avoid. It is important to plan ahead and legally protect your loved ones from a legacy of conflict and court cost.
We are available to prepare Estate Plans, including Wills, Trusts and Powers of Attorney for Healthcare and Finances. Here are 4 key considerations for estate planning as you think about creating or updating an estate plan:
1. Estate Planning is Even Important While You are Young
Creating a plan is just as important for young people as it is for older people. As you get married or look to begin a family, it becomes crucial to plan for the future early before life gets in the way. Tools such as Wills, Trusts, and Powers of Attorney are critical to having things in place for your family, ensuring they are taken care of as best as possible.
2. Your Wishes Must be in Writing to be Fulfilled
Situations will vary, ranging from nominating a guardian for minor children to trusting a friend or family member to make decisions when you cannot. However, relying on informal discussions often leads to uncertainty and can result in unnecessary confusion and conflict – or no enforceable plan at all.
Working with a trusted and experienced estate planning attorney to guide you in creating a clear legal plan will assure your wishes are implemented.
3. Proper Estate Planning Saves Time and Money
Advance planning with Powers of Attorney and Trust or Titling documents avoids the need for costly guardianships, time-consuming and expensive probate court actions, and confusion in a crisis. Creating a plan now provides clarity to those carrying out your wishes and avoids legal conflict.
4. You Should Review and Change Your Plan as Needed
Creating a plan now does not mean that you will continue with the same decisions for the rest of your life. We recommend updating an estate plan anytime you experience a major life change, such as marriage, having children, or a major financial change. Divorce is also an event that requires a new estate plan; more information can be found here: “Filing for Divorce: Do I Need a New Estate Plan?”
Contact the Estate Planning Attorneys of Hansen & Hildebrand Today
Whether you would like a comprehensive trust package to avoid probate and transfer your assets through a private, out of court process, or you simply want to be covered with healthcare directives, we are available to meet your needs.
For questions or to schedule a complimentary phone consult, call Hansen & Hildebrand, S.C. at (414) 273-2422 or contact us online.
By Attorney Erin M. Idler, Hansen & Hildebrand, S.C.
The ongoing health concerns of COVID-19 virus has left families around the world with questions about how to best protect themselves and others. The development and ultimate approval of the COVID-19 vaccine for children age 6 months and up has added additional issues for families in which the parents do not agree on vaccinating their children
Joint Custody and Vaccination
In Wisconsin, when parents have joint legal custody (legal decision-making for the child), a court does not make the medical decision about vaccination; instead, a court will have a hearing and then order which parent will make the medical decision. The determination of which parent will have decision-making authority for medical decisions is based on the best interests of the child standard.
Courts around the country, and even globally, are facing this issue. There is not a universal legal answer on whether children should be vaccinated or not. Courts rely on the best interest standard and have to make decisions allocating parental decision-making based upon the interests of the specific child in front of them, not generally for all children.
In Wisconsin, if this issue is legally contested, the judge will appoint a Guardian ad Litem (GAL), an attorney appointed to advocate for a child’s best interests, which is required under Wisconsin law anytime there is a dispute over legal custody or physical placement. The GAL does an investigation regarding the child’s best interests, gives a recommendation to the court as to which parent should make medical decisions, and participates in a contested evidentiary hearing if necessary.
Coparenting Disagreements Over COVID Vaccine
So – what does this mean if you and your co-parent disagree over the COVID vaccine for your child?
One option is to meet jointly with a lawyer mediator to consider input and discuss your options. This can include working with a child specialist to help you focus on communication and the best interests of your child.
The alternative is a high conflict court proceeding that will be financially expensive and damaging to family relationships. If you want to discuss this challenging issue in a structured mediation process, please contact us.
Contact Hansen & Hildebrand Today
Attorney Susan A. Hansen, Partner at Hansen & Hildebrand and Co-founder of Family Mediation Center
As a divorce lawyer for over 30 years, I have too often seen children become pawns in a divorce or witness endless and damaging conflict.
As a parent, you have a choice!
If you have children and are considering divorce, you should consider mediation. In the mediation process, you work with a child specialist who will help you create a family plan focused on the well-being of your children along with a neutral lawyer who will help you navigate financial and legal issues, including the necessary steps of the court process.
Here are five reasons why mediation is better for your children:
You Work Together
While family law litigation emphasizes conflict, mediation emphasizes education and communication to help you create mutual solutions focused on the needs and interests of your children.
You Control the Outcome
You decide what decisions and placement plan is best for your children rather than turning decision-making over to a judge.
You Keep the Children at the Center
NOT as a rope in a tug of war. Your joint goal is a co-parenting agreement and healthy family plan that avoids having your children feel caught in conflict or having to choose between parents.
You Reduce Cost
Preserve your financial and emotional resources for your family. Using a child specialist and one neutral lawyer allows you to obtain expertise and guidance from skilled professionals rather than using the experts and attorneys as expensive weapons in a war.
You Restructure Rather Than End Your Family
Mediation helps you realize the impact of your divorce actions on the future development and long-term emotional health and well-being of your children.
Your parental behavior and decisions during divorce will impact your family relationships for a lifetime-be sure you choose wisely
To learn more about how mediation can benefit your children and find the best solutions for your child custody/placement and other divorce concerns, contact us today to schedule a free initial phone call. For more information to help you make a decision that is right for you and your family call (414) 273-2422.
Considering divorce? You are not alone—nearly 50% of marriages end in divorce. As marital issues escalate, you may see divorce as your only option. If you are not involved in marriage counseling, you may be wondering how to bring up divorce to your spouse. It can be a challenging first step.
Your initial conversations can affect the entire divorce process and every aspect of your family’s future. Taking this first step effectively can reduce conflict and cost as you navigate the legal steps needed for a divorce.
Here are tips we gathered from relationship counselors and divorce lawyers to help you create the best foundation possible for moving forward.
Be Open to Getting Professional Help
Consider broaching the subject in couples counseling. A therapist with a marriage discernment approach can help both of you speak openly to determine whether divorce is the only option. You may also benefit by obtaining input from a lawyer and/or child specialist individually or jointly.
Consider When, Where, and What to Say in Advance
Try to avoid bringing divorce up in anger, when children may be present, or in any setting where you may have safety concerns. Be clear and honest about how you feel and why you want a divorce. This does not mean a lengthy list of your spouse’s faults that is likely to trigger a defensive and angry response. It does mean sharing why you are considering or have decided on divorce.
Be Clear and Compassionate
This is particularly important if your spouse may not want a divorce. Again, this is a time to consider meeting with a joint counselor who can help facilitate the often difficult and painful conversations about separation and divorce. You can’t control your spouse’s response, but you can control your own words and reactions. You may need to listen to your spouse’s different perspective and feelings, allow time for consideration, and come back to the conversation another day.
Understand Your Legal Process Choices
You have the choice of an individual consultation with a lawyer or a joint education meeting for both of you with a lawyer mediator. That choice will have a profound impact on the process and outcome of your divorce. If possible, consider and suggest meeting together with a mediator at the outset to get neutral legal input about ways to restructure your family and your finances and options for next steps.
There is No One Right Way to Do It
You know yourself and your spouse better than anyone. Think about how to bring up divorce to your spouse in a thoughtful, calm, and respectful conversation and plan in advance. Doing this at the outset will give you and your family the best prospect for a healthy future.
Contact us today to schedule a free initial phone call with one of our experienced lawyers who can help you weigh options for next steps. For more information to help you make a decision that is right for you and your family call (414) 273-2422.
By: Attorney Gregory M. Hildebrand, Partner at Hansen & Hildebrand, S.C.
Deciding to divorce is one of the most difficult decisions you can make during your lifetime. Divorce impacts every aspect of your life including your family’s finances and interpersonal relationships now and in the future.
One critical, but often overlooked step in deciding to divorce, is deciding how to divorce. The process you and your spouse choose will have a significant impact not only on the divorce process itself, but also on the shape and nature of your future financial well-being and family relationships.
Couples have various options that are outlined in detail on our website. These include attempting to navigate the divorce process themselves, working jointly with a neutral lawyer mediator, choosing two lawyers to advise and assist them in reaching agreements in a collaborative process, and the traditional adversarial divorce process with lawyers.
It is important to understand that not making a deliberate decision on a divorce process at the outset means you may end up in an expensive adversarial process by default – even if that is not what either of you wants. Simply filing a divorce without a clear choice and defined process alternative like Mediation or the Collaborative Process leaves parties in the often high conflict and costly traditional court process.
Unfortunately, many lawyers do not discuss process options with clients – leaving them in the traditional system. At Hansen and Hildebrand, we believe it is critical not only to help you evaluate your circumstances and legal options, but also to understand and assess your family and financial goals to choose the process that is right for you.
Though the court process may be necessary to address financial manipulation or domestic abuse, most clients would benefit from an alternative process. Mediation (one neutral lawyer) or Collaborative (each has a lawyer) can provide a structured roadmap to resolution, as well as a foundation for future communication and problem-solving.
Contact us today to schedule a free initial phone call with one of our experienced lawyers who can help you weigh options for next steps. For more information to help you make a decision that is right for you and your family call (414) 273-2422.
By: Attorney Lindsey Kujawa, Partner at Hansen & Hildebrand, S.C.
If you are going through the financial and emotional turmoil that typically accompanies divorce, creating or updating your estate plan may be the last thing on your mind. To avoid litigation (and serious unintended consequences), you need to be aware of the practical implications of divorce on estate planning and powers of attorney.
It is important to maintain valid financial and health care power of attorney documents. These documents ensure that, if you become incompetent, the person you appointed to act as your agent can make financial and health care decisions on your behalf. A common misconception is that the filing of a divorce action invalidates all estate planning involving your soon to be ex-spouse. In fact, however, the filing of the divorce only terminates a spouse’s authority under a financial power of attorney; the healthcare power of attorney authority continues until the divorce is final. A soon to be ex-spouse retains the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf (if you’re incompetent) while the divorce is pending. Therefore, when you make the decision to file for divorce, you also need to execute new financial and healthcare powers of attorney nominating agent(s) of your choosing.
Creating a new estate plan is essential to clarify your goals and avoid passing issues onto your children. Wisconsin is a marital property state which presumes that all property (except gifted and inherited property) is divisible in a divorce. The statutes direct whether a will, trust or beneficiary designation on life insurance or investment and retirement accounts executed pre-divorce remain valid during and after a divorce is finalized. Rules vary and you should make decisions with the assistance of a lawyer to be certain your directives about assets are clear.
Many divorce agreements contain obligations for division of property upon death. For example, it may require one or both spouses to maintain a certain amount of life insurance coverage with designated beneficiaries (the former spouse or children) or create provisions in a will or trust. A skilled estate planning lawyer will help you effectuate your goals while maintaining compliance with your divorce agreement.
Legal and financial expertise will help you make the best decisions for yourself and your family. Attorney Lindsey Kujawa at Hansen & Hildebrand, S.C. recognizes the impact that a divorce can have on an estate plan. Her dual expertise in divorce and estate planning assures personalized and cost-effective legal services. If needed, she will partner with your financial advisor to be sure you have the education needed to make informed decisions during these life transitions. Attorney Kujawa assure your wishes are properly implemented and help you avoid a legacy of conflict.
Contact Us Today
Divorce can be a complex and emotionally challenging process. Decision-making is stressful and emotions run high. It is important to remember that your actions throughout this process can not only affect your final settlement agreement, but also affect your family relationships. Rather than having regrets, below are some helpful tips during this time:
• Do be reasonable and cooperative in decision-making. Respectful communication will lead to creative and positive options.
• Do follow all temporary court orders or agreements. It will help to ease conflict.
• Do confer with your spouse before selling or giving away property.
• Do fully disclose all assets and debts.
• Do support your children. Changing family dynamics is difficult for adult children as well as minor children.
• Do consider consulting with a child specialist to help keep a positive focus on their needs and interests.
• Do be upfront about your needs and interests. It will help to create options that are in the best interests of the entire family.
• Do take care of your physical, emotional and mental health. See a therapist if you need assistance.
• Do understand all of your process options. A court litigated approach is not the only way. Contact us to learn more.
• Don’t lash out at your spouse or react negatively to their actions, especially around your children. Give yourself time before making major decisions.
• Don’t violate any temporary court orders or agreements.
• Don’t sell or give away property without your spouse’s mutual agreement.
• Don’t hide assets or withhold income from your spouse.
• Don’t involve significant others in your children’s lives too quickly. It can confuse your children and make them insecure. Introduce new relationships only when you and your children are ready.
• Don’t use your children as a pawn in order to get what you want and don’t make them pick sides.
• Don’t involve adult children in the drama. They are still your children and deserve to be insulated from parental conflict.
• Don’t defer to the past, it cannot be changed. Instead, look forward in deciding how to reshape your family.
DON’T Go It Alone
Contact us today or call us at 414-273-2422 to learn how the we can guide you and your spouse through the complexities of a divorce process.
By: Attorney Susan A. Hansen, Partner at Hansen & Hildebrand and Co-Founder of Family Mediation Center
There are daily articles and online posts about the impact of divorce on families. Divorce, particularly high conflict divorce, can also impact businesses. Here are five common ways that a business can be affected when an owner or employee is going through a divorce:
Reduced focus and productivity. The emotional toll of divorce can distract employees and contribute to less focus and attention and increased errors.
Missed work. The emotional trauma can impact health and increase absenteeism. The time demands of the legal process, as well as potential increased demands for child care when parents separate, can cause increased tardiness and absenteeism.
Legal discovery. When divorces are high conflict, formal demands for extensive document production can be directed at the employer. In some cases, management or business owners are even compelled to testify regarding payroll, benefits and personnel issues.
Payroll, benefits, and tax issues. Divorce impacts benefits, insurance coverage, payroll deductions, and potential child support or spousal maintenance income assignments.
Business valuation disputes. If one of the spouses has an ownership interest in the business, there may be demands from lawyers or duelling hired experts for appraisals, accounting records, or other business internal documents to support legal claims.
The common thread in each of these business disruptions is not the divorce itself, but the conflict inherent in court litigation. Such negative impacts on businesses can be minimized if spouses choose a mutual process, such as mediation (one neutral lawyer) or collaborative divorce (each party has a lawyer and all commit to out-of-court settlement) which are designed to support well informed decisions and minimize both conflict and cost. Business owners should be aware of these options for themselves and their employees to help them make positive choices.
Susan Hansen practices family law and mediation at Hansen & Hildebrand, S.C. Contact her at (414) 273-2422 or contact us to discuss your concerns and get the legal advice you need to decide next steps.
Parents considering divorce or separation must make decisions that will affect their children for a lifetime. Parental decisions include a placement schedule, how to manage holidays, and how to navigate future issues such as significant others.
Each family is different, and each set of parents may choose different approaches to help them come to these decisions. Couples can have these discussions on their own, get support and guidance from a neutral child specialist mediator, do a collaborative out-of-court team process, or take their disputes to court for a judge to make decisions for them. Reaching a mutual decision is best given that parents’ ability to work together and manage conflict is the main predictor of how their children will adjust to divorce and separation.
If you have questions about process options and the impact on your children, please consider reaching out to me as a child specialist or to a lawyer mediator at Hansen & Hildebrand S.C.
What is a Family Plan?
The Family Plan (aka Parenting Plan) is a written document that represents the agreements between parents regarding:
The Family Plan is ideally detailed to avoid potential conflicts and to allow parents the opportunity to think about specific situations before they occur in hopes of creating a scenario that goes well for the children in the future. The plan is also made part of the court agreement and final judgment.
What is the Focus of the Plan?
The Family Plan should focus on the children; prioritizing the children’s physical needs (e.g., nap/sleeping routine, eating routine, medical care, protection from harm), emotional needs (e.g., relationship with parents, temperament, levels of anxiety, etc.), developmental needs (e.g., younger children need more frequent contacts with each parent than adolescents; younger children need more supervision and parent direction than older children), social needs (e.g., time with friends, time in activities), and educational needs (e.g., space and time to study, parent support and participation). Parents need to discuss and make specific agreements about how each child’s needs will be met, including how to address future issues or changes. A child specialist can help assure the children have a voice without the pressure of making a choice between their parents.
What if I Find this Difficult?
Divorce and separation are emotionally challenging experiences for parents and children alike. Crafting a plan can be challenging for even the best-intentioned co-parents. Investing in a child specialist process that supports your family and helps create a thorough, child-focused family plan is well worth the effort to assure the future well-being of your children. It is an opportunity to help the children understand that mom and dad are working together for their good and it is an effective way to create a plan that can support the children in their adjustment while also decreasing the risk of parent conflict in the future. It can also help you address concerns of adult children.
Feel free to contact me to identify helping professionals who are available to support you and your family through the process.
Casey A. Holtz, Ph.D.